Frances "Fanny" Burney, 1752 - 1840

portrait of Frances Burney
Oil on canvas ca. 1785 by Edward Francisco Burney, a cousin

Born: 13 June 1752, King's Lynn, Norfolk, England, UK
Died: 6 January 1840, London, England, UK

Frances Burney was born at King's Lynn, Norfolk on this day in 1752. Her father was a musicologist and music historian whose home attracted a wide circle of distinguished guests, particularly after they Burney's moved to London in 1760. Burney's mother died in 1762 and her father remarried four years later, the expanded family (her stepmother had three children) led to tension. She was pressured to give up writing as being "unladylike" and actually burned her first manuscript at age 15 but began a journal in 1768 that would continue for 72 years. She published Evelina anonymously in 1778. Fearing that publishers would recognize her own writing, as she often was a scribe for her father, she hat to use a disguised hand and her brother represented her with the publisher getting only twenty guineas for the work, which was a huge success. When she was identified, she made friends with many notable literary figures, including Jane Austen and Dr Johnson, and her second novel was also a success, with her name on the cover. In 1785 she met King George III and Queen Charlotte and was offered the post of "Second Keeper of the Robes", a post that elevated her socially, paid her well, but took all her time. In 1793 she married a French refugee, an artillery officer, her third novel provided funds to build a house at Westhumble. They moved to France in 1802, hopeful to recover Alexandre's pre-revolutionary properties. While there she underwent a mastectomy which she was able to document because there was no anaesthesia. After her father died in 1814 she wrote no more fiction, devoting her time to organizing his memoirs and her own journals. She wrote several plays but was not allowed to publish them during her lifetime, they only came to light in 1945 and weren't all published until 1995. Virginia Woolf called her "the mother of English fiction".

Biography from Wikipedia and the Burney Center at McGill University

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